Whiteoak's Stephen Ross shoots the ball during the first quarter of their sectional semifinal game against South Webster. Ross finished the game with 12 points. (HCP Photo/Stephen Forsha)
Whiteoak's Stephen Ross shoots the ball during the first quarter of their sectional semifinal game against South Webster. Ross finished the game with 12 points. (HCP Photo/Stephen Forsha)
MCDERMOTT — A few missed chances under the hoop by the No. 11 seeded Whiteoak Wildcats, added with the sixth seeded South Webster Jeeps having a couple scoring runs, resulted in the season coming to a close for the ’Cats by a 57-39 score Wednesday in the Division IV SE District Sectional Semifinals at Northwest High School.

The loss wraps up a season for the Wildcats where they played their best basketball in the final stages of the year.

That said, the Wildcats played within eight points of the Jeeps when halftime arrived, and during the third frame, they got to within six points of the “home team” in the sectional semifinals.

“We were down eight points at the half and cut it to six in the third quarter, but give credit to South Webster … they have experience, quite a few seniors, a 1,000-point scorer who when things got tough they went to him,” WHS head coach Jeremy McGraw said. “I’m proud of our kids’ effort, they battled hard. Nobody in the gym gave us a chance but us, but we came out and gave them everything they wanted from an eleven seed.”

The first quarter was played close for a majority of the eight minutes with the Wildcats playing to within five points or less through nearly the first six minutes of the frame. They trailed by just three points with 3:29 left on the opening quarter clock.

The opening frame began with Whiteoak’s Stephen Ross scoring the first points of the game with a layup, followed by what was the first of two alley-oops of the first frame by the Jeeps.

Ross, who scored 10 of his 12 total points in the first quarter, answered to put the Wildcats in the lead with another layup, but five straight points by the No. 6 seeded Jeeps left them with an 8-4 advantage at the 5:41 mark of the first.

Ross, again, brought the Wildcats closer to SWHS, this time with a jumper at the 5:28 mark. Later, another layup by Ross left WHS trailing by just three points, by an 11-8 score, with 4:54 left in the quarter.

As the quarter continued, the Wildcats made it a 13-10 deficit following two points from Trever Yeager, who led WHS with 13 points. Yeager finished with six two-point baskets and one free throw conversion.

Eventually, the Jeeps increased their lead to 17-10, but Ross came back with two points at the 1:05 mark. Those were answered with a second alley-oop by Shiloah Blevins (who totaled 11 points for the Jeeps) and a fast break layup by the Jeeps for a 12-point lead. The end of the first came with Whiteoak’s Charley Skinner scoring two points at the buzzer on a put-back opportunity for the 21-14 differential.

In the second quarter, Whiteoak allowed a 3-pointer by the Jeeps at the 6:15 mark for the first points of the quarter, seeing them trail by 10 points at 24-14. WHS made the deficit single digits with 5:17 left in the opening half when Yeager scored two points in the paint off a layup.

That single-digit deficit didn’t last with the Jeeps increasing their lead to 10 points on two different occasions in a span of under two minutes for a 30-20 advantage. Yeager broke up both 10-point leads with layups for a 30-22 score with 1:01 left in the second frame, as that was also the score at halftime.

The Jeeps were first to score in the third with two points by Blevins, increasing the SW lead back to 10 points 16 seconds into the second half. Whiteoak came back with two made free throws by Ross and a layup by Hunter Ruckel, bringing the Wildcats back to within six points of the Jeeps with 6:45 on the third-quarter clock.

South Webster then went on a 6-0 run before forcing the Wildcats to call a timeout with 4:34 left in the quarter, as WHS trailed by 12 points at 38-26. That scoring run eventually turned into eight straight points.

Following the timeout, the Jeeps outscored the Wildcats, 6-4 for the rest of the third, pushing the Jeeps' lead to 44-30. That third frame also saw WHS outscored 14-8 in the eight-minute quarter.

In the fourth, the Wildcats were outscored 13-9 with Traeten Hamilton, Atlee Carr and Yeager contributing to the fourth quarter scoring. Hamilton finished with seven points in the game.

The loss ends the Whiteoak season at 4-19 overall (1-12 in the SHAC), winning their final two games of the regular season, defeating East Clinton and North Adams.

“We won our last two regular season games, started growing and coming together as a team,” McGraw said. “You try to mix in a freshman, a sophomore and a couple juniors who have never played together while playing mostly senior-oriented teams, and you are going to have some downs. Here lately, we played as a team great, and I thought we got better.

“One thing is our kids will come in, give good effort and play hard. I’m proud of them for that.”

Seniors for the Wildcats were Derrick Ison, Carter Stolz and Shawn Wissel.

“I wish the very best to our three seniors,” McGraw said. “I believe they are going to do great things. I’m proud of them and of our underclassmen because it is tough going through a losing season, but they battled hard and gave everything they had. I’m proud of them.”

Leading the game in scoring for the Jeeps was Alex Blevins with 15 points. SWHS will play again on Wednesday, March 1 vs. No. 3 seeded Peebles in the sectional finals at 8 p.m. at NWHS.